May 4, 2017
Animals' Best Friend
Honors graduate dedicated to veterinary school, volunteerism
Some students aspire to run their own businesses after college. Miriam “Mik” Chari already has been a business owner for several years prior to her graduation from Kennesaw State University this spring.
In fact, co-owning Music by Tritone – the music school and recording studio she started at age 17 with her sister Sarah and brother Joshua – is just one of three jobs she held during college, along with being a music teacher and a veterinary assistant. Chari also found the time to volunteer at Zoo Atlanta and with animal causes such as the Ape Conservation Effort and Save the Horses.
She did it all while carrying a full-time course load in the University Honors Program, majoring in biology.
“The variety keeps me motivated,” Chari said with a laugh. “I feel very happy and thankful to have had this type of varied background as an undergrad.”
Chari, 33, has taken an unconventional route to earning her degree from Kennesaw State. Her next move will be to Raleigh, N.C. – along with her husband, Dante Ha – to attend North Carolina State University’s nationally-ranked College of Veterinary Medicine.
“My graduation from Kennesaw State is a big deal because it’s been so many years in the making,” Chari said. “It was a lengthy path, but definitely I would do it again the same way.”
Cracker Jack and a ruler
Music is in Chari’s blood. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, she was a frequent visitor to world-famous Severance Hall when her grandfather, Daniel Majeske, was concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Chari’s mother and father passed their love of classical music on to her, even before she was old enough to play a real instrument. When she was 3½, Chari learned the notes on a violin fingerboard from a makeshift violin her parents fashioned by gluing a ruler to a Cracker Jack box.
Chari grew into a polished violinist, as well as a bass player, vocalist, composer and studio musician. Her musical background came in handy when her father’s health declined and, at 17 years old, Chari needed to make her own way financially. She and her siblings opened Music by Tritone, which continues to thrive 16 years later with locations in Alpharetta and Roswell.
“The three of us decided, ‘You know what? We’re old enough – just take it as a sign and start the music school,’” Chari said. “Thankfully, my parents had the foresight to give us a great education for classical music, so we were able to use that and start a career path of our own.”
While music is an essential aspect of her life, Chari has an even greater passion for animals. Chari competed in equine show jumping and dressage as a child, and she helped care for boarded horses after her family moved from Ohio to a farm in South Carolina.
With her music business succeeding and with her family’s encouragement, Chari rekindled her childhood love of animals. Volunteering at Zoo Atlanta inspired her to pursue a biology degree at KSU, where she immediately felt at home.
“Kennesaw State is a big school where you still have personal connection between the students and the faculty,” Chari said. “In my four years here, it’s unbelievable the track record of great professors that I really connected with.”
One of Chari’s best experiences was being part of a neurophysiology research team under Lisa Ganser, an assistant professor of biology. Through research with zebrafish, Ganser and her team hope to learn more about the effects amphetamine exposure and addiction have on the human brain.
“Mik brings a quiet strength and maturity to everything she does,” Ganser said. “She is tenacious with everything, from lab clean-up, to animal care duties, to solving complex critical thinking issues for experiments. She also is incredibly kind and empathetic.”
Chari vows that she will continue to work “in a way that supports innovation and research in the veterinary field.” She also pledges to remain active in causes that promote animal health care and well-being.
“The situation that happened when I was 17 gave me just a brief glimpse of what it’s like not to have means, so volunteerism always will be an essential part of my life,” Chari said. “Compassion and care are core values that guide everything I do.”
Chari’s love of horses has her leaning toward pursuing equine medicine, but she is keeping her options open. However her veterinary career turns out, she is confident that already having been a business owner – and all her other steps along the way – have prepared her well for the next paths on her journey.
“It definitely gives me confidence going forward,” Chari said. “Going into the veterinary profession is a new world, but I have some experiences to look back on and think, ‘OK, I made it through that, so I can make it through this.’”
– Paul Floeckher
Photos by David Caselli